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Anderson, Violette Neatley  

Charles Rosenberg

activist, lawyer, and the first woman of color to be admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court (active in women's clubs and the Chicago Urban League), was born Violette Neatley in London, England, to Marie Jordi Neatley, a thirty-two-year-old German-Swiss woman, and Richard E. Neatley (sometimes spelled Neatly), a thirty-four-year-old Jamaican of African descent. She moved with her parents to America in 1885, settling in Chicago, where her father worked as a day laborer. Violette Neatley graduated from North Division High School in 1899, leaving her parents' apartment on Wells Street in North Town to marry Amos Preston Blackwell. They remained in North Town, at 473 Park Avenue. Her husband worked as a valet and in 1900 informed the census which recorded him as black that he was born in Canada as were his parents However a divorced man of the same name ...


Boye, Mame Madior  

Jeremy Rich

first female prime minister of Senegal, was born in the coastal city of Saint Louis, Senegal. She came from a family of lawyers, including her father, one brother who worked for the Supreme Court of Senegal, and another brother who received an advanced law degree, became a professor of international law, and eventually became the head of the University of Dakar. Boye herself attended primary school in her home city before graduating from the Lycée Faidherbe secondary school and enrolling in an undergraduate law degree program at the University of Dakar in 1963 She then studied law at the Centre National d Études Judiciaries CNEJ in Paris Once she finished her studies in France she returned to Senegal and began to work as an assistant prosecutor for the government Boye became an assistant judge in a court at Dakar and later rose to be president of the Senegalese Court ...


Brooks-Randolph, Angie Elizabeth  

Mary H. Moran

Liberian lawyer and diplomat and the first African woman to preside over the General Assembly of the United Nations, was born on 24 August 1928 (or 1929, according to some accounts) in Virginia, Montserrado County, Liberia. Her parents were of mixed ethnic background representing several of Liberia’s indigenous groups, and her father was a Baptist minister. As one of nine children, she was fostered out to a widowed seamstress as a child and attended Monrovia public schools. Although she had a great desire to continue her education, she entered an early marriage with Richard A. Henries (1908–1980 a member of a prominent Americo Liberian family who was twenty years her senior Her husband was a lawyer and politician who eventually became the speaker for the Liberian House of Representatives She and Henries had two sons but the marriage ended in divorce and she turned her attention to ...


Brown, Cora  

Linda M. Carter

state legislator, attorney, police officer, and social worker, was born Cora Mae Brown in Bessemer, Alabama, the only child of Richard and Alice Brown. Her father and mother were employed as a tailor and cook respectively. In 1922 the family moved to Detroit when Brown was seven years old. After graduating from Cass Technical High School in 1931, Brown attended Fisk University and received a degree in sociology in 1935.

Brown returned to Detroit, and until 1941, she was employed as a social worker. After working for the Children's Aid Bureau, Old Age Assistance Bureau, and the Works Progress Administration, Brown, as a policewoman in the Women's Division of the Detroit Police Department from 1941 to 1946, prepared legal cases. In 1946 Brown enrolled in Wayne State University's School of Law; she received her LL.B degree in 1948 and passed ...


Brown, Kate  

Brian Tong and Theodore Lin

retiring room attendant, activist, most renowned for winning the 1873 Supreme Court Case Railroad Company v. Brown, was born Katherine Brown in Virginia. There are many variations of her name; in some documents, she is referred to as “Catherine Brown,” “Katherine Brown,” “Kate Brown,” or “Kate Dodson.” In the New York Times article “Washington, Affairs at the National Capital,” her name appears as “Kate Dostie.” Very few records of Brown's life survive today; as a result, much of her childhood and personal life remains unknown.

Kate Brown's recorded personal life begins with her marriage to Jacob Dodson. Jacob Dodson had a colorful past. Born in 1825, Dodson was a freeman. He spent most of his early life as a servant for the Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton, but in 1843 Dodson began to accompany John C. Fremont, son-in-law of Senator Benton ...


Camara, M’Balia  

Elizabeth Schmidt

Guinean political activist, was born into a farming family in the Lower Guinea village of Posseya in 1929. She was a political activist in the town of Tondon in the mid-1950s. A member of the Guinean branch of the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA), Camara led the local RDA women’s committee. Toward the end of World War II, she married Thierno Camara, a military veteran who was later elected president of the Tondon RDA subsection.

A hotbed of opposition to government- appointed canton (administrative district) chiefs, Tondon attracted the attention of the French colonial authorities on 9 February 1955 when Thierno Camara and other RDA militants were arrested for undermining chiefly authority When villagers tried to thwart their leader s arrest Chief David Sylla attacked the crowd with his saber and gun seriously wounding several demonstrators He then entered the Camaras house and attacked M Balia Camara who was ...


Chaoui, Touria  

Osire Glacier

the first female pilot in Morocco and the Maghreb, was born into a bourgeois family in Fez on 14 December 1936. Her father, Abdelwahed Chaoui, was an avant-garde journalist and an actor who wanted his daughter to have an exemplary education, including training in Arabic and French and in Moroccan and Western cultures (Morocco was at the time a French protectorate). From her childhood, she distinguished herself by her exceptional intelligence, impressing her teachers as well as the director of her school.

In addition to her success in school Chaoui demonstrated strong leadership skills When she was seven years old she organized a strike in her school to protest against the violence of the colonial authorities She made her young peers promise that they would not return to their classrooms until the French authorities liberated the students who had been arrested in a public demonstration in favor of Morocco ...


D’Almeida Adamon, Grace  

Flore Nobime

Beninese feminist, human rights activist, and lawyer, was born Grace Antonia Almeida Benoite Adamon on 21 March 1951 in Dakar, Senegal. She attended primary school there before returning with her family to Dahomey to continue her secondary schooling. In Cotonou she enrolled in studies at the College of Our Lady of the Apostles. She then moved to Guebwiller on the upper Rhine in France where she finished her secondary degree.

D’Almeida Adamon attended university in France. At the University of Paris II Panthéon-Assas, she earned a diploma, and followed with a master’s degree. At the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, she continued advanced studies in law and earned a DEA postgraduate degree. In order to become a lawyer, she returned to Paris II Panthéon-Assas where she left with her professional law degree (CAPA). In 1977 she began practicing in Paris as a lawyer but one year later she returned ...


Diarra, Fatoumata Dembélé  

Jeremy Rich

jurist and judge of the International Criminal Court, was born in Mali. She attended primary and secondary school in Mali, and received her undergraduate degree in human rights from the University of Dakar in 1971. Diarra returned home to Mali in order to begin a graduate program in law from the École Nationale d’Administration in the Malian capital of Bamako. Diarra then went to France, where she received a law degree from the École Nationale de la Magistrature in Paris. Despite the despotic regime of Moussa Traoré, Diarra made a legal career of defending victims of political violence. In the early 1990s she was one of the leading members of the grassroots movement that challenged the Traoré dictatorship. Diarra served as a legal adviser at the Sovereign National Convention in 1991 where she helped draft a new constitution. She also served in the 1990s as the vice ...


Franklin, Shirley  

SaFiya D. Hoskins

politician, was born Shirley Clarke in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Eugene Haywood Clarke, an attorney, and Ruth Lyons White. Clarke graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Girls in 1963, a historic and highly competitive institution. Clarke had early aspirations of becoming a dancer. Despite her lack of participation in high school student government, upon graduating, Clarke became active in the civil rights movement as an undergraduate at Howard University in Washington, D.C. In 1968 Clarke earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Howard, then, returned to her hometown to attend the University of Pennsylvania. She graduated from Penn in 1969 with a Master of Arts degree in Sociology.

In 1972, Clarke married the entertainment attorney David McCoy Franklin; together the couple settled in Atlanta, Georgia. The couple, who divorced in 1986, had three daughters; Kai Ayanna, Cabral Candice ...


Gaines, Leslie Isaiah  

Eric R. Jackson

was born on February 13, 1945 in Washington, DC, to Leslie and Bernice Gaines. The family then moved to Sandy Spring, in Montgomery County, Maryland, where his father worked as a custodian at one of the city’s African American high schools. From the time that he was a child, Gaines believed that one day he would be a community activist or become a member of the legal profession. For example, despite being told by a high school counselor that he should quit school and find a manual laboring job, Gaines’ journey to the legal profession started as soon as he finished his undergraduate degree at Maryland State College, an HBCU in Princess Anne (now the University of Maryland Eastern Shore) in 1967.

In 1968 he entered Howard Law School in Washington DC without the submission of any LSAT scores which Gaines proclaimed many years later is the system ...


Harris, Kamala Devi  

Donna L. Halper

was born in Oakland, California, the older of two daughters of Donald Harris, an economics professor, and his then-wife Shyamala (Gopalan), a scientist and medical researcher. Her father was from Jamaica and her mother was from India; the two met in graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley, where both were active in the 1960s civil rights movement. As a child Kamala was taken to civil rights marches with her parents. She was also exposed to their religious traditions—her father’s Baptist Christian faith, and her mother’s Hinduism. Her name, which she pronounces COMMA-la, comes from the Sanskrit word for “lotus plant.”

Harris grew up in a predominantly Black working class neighborhood in Berkeley Her parents divorced when she was five and Kamala and her sister Maya were raised by their mother Although the two girls were biracial their mother understood that most people perceived them as Black Thus ...


Hill, Anita Faye  

Mary Krane Derr

lawyer and educator, was born in rural Lone Tree, Okmulgee County, eastern Oklahoma, near Tulsa. Known as Faye to family and friends, she was the great-granddaughter of slaves and the youngest of thirteen children born to farmers Albert and Erma Hill. Faye grew up in the Baptist Church and remained within that congregation. An excellent student and avid reader, she attended Eram Grade School and in 1973 became the fourth child from her family to be selected as valedictorian at the local Morris High School.

In 1977 Hill earned her B.S. in psychology with honors from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. On a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) scholarship, she left Oklahoma for the vastly different environment of Yale University Law School, where many classmates had enjoyed considerable financial and social advantages from birth. Graduating with her J.D. in 1980 Hill felt no ...


Jones, Stephanie Tubbs  

Mary Krane Derr

lawyer and politician, was born Stephanie Tubbs in Cleveland, Ohio. She was the youngest of three daughters born to Andrew Tubbs, a United Airlines skycap, and Mary Tubbs, a cook for a fraternity at Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University. The Baptist, church-going family lived in Glenville, a working-class black neighborhood. Stephanie excelled in the gifted program at Miles Standish Elementary. In 1967, she graduated from Collinwood High School with ten athletic and academic honors. On full scholarship, she attended Case Western, where she started the African American Students Association. After considering social work, she graduated (1971) with a B.A. in sociology and a minor in psychology. On another scholarship, she earned a J.D. at Case Western's law school (1974).

Her first job as a lawyer was as assistant general counsel to the northeast Ohio regional sewer district's equal opportunity administrator (1974 ...


Martin, Ruby Grant  

Amber Karlins

was born in Lake Village, Arkansas. Martin’s family relocated to Cleveland when she was nine, and as a result, she received most of her education in integrated schools.

In 1956 Martin graduated from Fisk University, a historically Black college in Nashville, Tennessee. After graduating from Fisk, she moved to Washington, D.C., where she attended Howard University. She earned her law degree from Howard in 1959, graduating at the top of her class.

After graduation Martin moved back to Cleveland, but after a year, she returned to D.C., eager to apply her law degree to work that would enable her to improve the lives of those around her. Despite being quite young and fairly inexperienced, she was quickly hired as the staff attorney for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, a position she held from 1960 to 1965 During her time at the commission Martin worked on research and ...


Mitchell, Juanita Jackson  

Kate Tuttle

By the time Juanita J. Mitchell had received her law degree in 1950, she had already spent nearly twenty years working for civil rights on the local and national levels. Born to racially conscious parents—her mother, Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson, was president of the state conference of NAACP branches—Mitchell earned a degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1931. Upon graduation she returned to her native Baltimore to help African Americans struggling with both the economic devastation of the Great Depression and the persistence of Lynching and other racist violence. Hoping to alleviate some of their suffering, Mitchell founded the City-Wide Young People's Forum of Baltimore in 1931 and served as its president until 1934. In 1935Walter White, then executive secretary of the NAACP, recruited Jackson to head that organization's newly created youth program, a position she held until her 1938 ...


Obama, Michelle  

Darlene Clark Hine

First Lady of the United States of America, lawyer, and healthcare executive was born Michelle LaVaughn Robinson in Chicago's South Side to working class parents. Her father, Fraser Robinson III, was a city employee, who worked tending boilers at a water-filtration plant in the city until his death due to complications from multiple sclerosis. Her mother, Marian Shields Robinson, worked as a secretary for the Spiegel catalogue store before becoming a-stay-at-home mother. Michelle's older brother, Craig, born in 1962, would, like his sister, graduate from Princeton University. He later became the head basketball coach at Oregon State University.

As Barack Obama noted in his March 2008 speech on race at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, his wife “carries within her the blood of slaves and slave owners.” And, indeed, genealogical research has revealed that Michelle Obama's earliest known paternal ancestor, her great-great grandfather, Jim Robinson ...


Poe, L. Marian  

Peter Wallenstein

lawyer, was born Lavinia Marian Fleming in Warwick County, Virginia, the daughter of Archer R. Fleming, a blacksmith and former slave, and Florence M. Carter. She grew up in Newport News, Virginia, with her parents and her brothers.

In the early 1910s she worked in Newport News as a stenographer for a black banker, notary, and real estate agent, E. C. Brown, president of the Crown Savings Bank. In 1910 she married Abram James Poe, a waiter; they had two children. For a time around 1920Marian Poe worked in the office of Joseph Thomas Newsome, a black attorney. The experience convinced Poe to become a lawyer.

Success would not come easy. The law schools in Virginia—Washington and Lee University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Richmond—excluded black applicants. Few black men in Virginia had become lawyers, and Virginia law before 1920 ...


Ray, Charlotte E.  

Lois Baldwin Moreland

lawyer, was born in New York City, the daughter of Charlotte Augusta Burroughs, a native of Savannah, Georgia, and Charles Bennett Ray, a journalist, abolitionist, and minister of Indian, English, and African ancestry, who became editor of the Colored American, after Samuel Cornish. The Rays had seven children, two of whom died in adolescence. Charlotte was the youngest of the three surviving daughters, all of whom attended college like their brothers.

As a child, Charlotte attended the Institution for the Education of Colored Youth in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1851 by the educator Myrtilla Miner, the private institution was one of the few schools that black girls could attend. By 1869 Ray was a-teacher at the Howard University Normal and Preparatory Department. In the evenings she studied law at Howard University, where she specialized in commercial law. As a senior, in February 1872 ...


Rhinelander, Alice Jones  

Angelita D. Reyes

cause célèbre, was born Alice Beatrice Jones, the daughter of a white mother and supposedly “black” father, both of whom had emigrated from England to the United States in 1891. While the race of her mother Elizabeth Jones was familiar and recognizable enough for Americans to classify as white, the racial background of George Jones, her father, was not as clearly determined. While general references considered him to be British of West Indian descent, he was distinctly not African American according to an array of witnesses and census documentation in the United States.

Various newspapers of the period described Alice Jones as “dusky,” “a tropical beauty,” or of a “Spanish complexion” (Lewis and Ardizzone, 63–66, 163). Not considering herself black in the American rhetorical denotation of race, Alice Jones Rhinelander affirmed during the annulment trial of the interracial marriage to Leonard Rhinelander (1903 ...